Busy few days ahead on the blog, so the links come a bit early this week. Wouldn’t it be nice if the weekend started Thursday afternoon? Let’s start with a troubling story from the New York Times about apparent fraud in the new homebuyers program I wrote about recently. That would be the $8,000 tax credit for first-time buyers or those who haven’t bought a house in the last three years. Well, turns out the Internal Revenue Service has identified a bevy of suspected criminal schemes and civil violations. The U.S. Department of the Treasury has found cases in which claimants pretended to be first-time buyers, the Times reports.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) writes in this week’s Newsweek praising the concept of a three-year college degree. The former University of Tennessee president writes that "many colleges and universities are stuck in the past," pointing to the traditional fall-to-spring school year. A three-year program would save highly motivated students time and money and allow colleges to fill up their often-dormant facilities over the summer, Alexander argues.
Sticking with higher education, reports released this week by the College Board show that an increasing number of college students are relying on federal student loans rather than private loans, which have been more difficult to secure during the recession, the Wall Street Journal reports. The study shows that the volume of private loans dropped by more than 50 percent in the 2008-9 academic year, in large part because of tightening credit standards. Meanwhile, the federal-loan volume rose 15 percent.
Marketers are eager to capitalize on the growing number of young people who use smartphones to scour social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, USA Today writes. Companies aren't just looking at the major players -- they want to have a presence on new mobile-only social networks. Advertisers are confident that the twentysomethings who cling to their internet-at-all-time phones are willing to view online ads, the article notes.
Speaking of social networking, here’s an interesting look at a new entrant to the increasingly crowded marketplace. It’s called Foursquare, and it works like this: Users check in with a cell phone when they are at a restaurant, bar or other locale. Friends can see where other friends are at any given moment in case they want to drop in. There’s also a competitive aspect. Points are given to people who frequent a hot spot, and friends battle to see who goes to a given place most often. St. Louis is among the 30-some cities where the service is available.
Finally, are you thinking about vacation plans for the colder months? Some cruise lines are turning to live rock music (heavy metal, Christian, and other varieties) on the high seas to attract young crowds, the Detroit Free-Press reports. VH1 is chartering a cruise, and Kid Rock is the headliner on another. Talk about an extended booze cruise.